EDCE Awards laureates

Winners of the

“EPFL Outstanding Ph.D Thesis Distinction in Civil and Environmental Engineering”


Dr. Fabian Barras

Thesis title: When dynamic cracks meet disorder: A journey along the fracture process zone

Ph.D in the Computational Solid Mechanics Laboratory, LSMS

My PhD research focused on the rapid propagation of rupture front, a highly dynamic phenomenon at the origin of many catastrophic events. In the wake of a dynamic rupture, materials and structures fail, violent earthquakes nucleate along crustal faults, snow avalanches start hurtling down steep mountain slopes, drops of delicious wine spill out of a breaking glass. In each of these examples, the medium holds inherent heterogeneities (defects, inclusions, microstructure) which are magnified by the sharp stress concentration existing at the tip of the front. Understanding their impact on the rupture dynamics is hence a fundamental but challenging problem.

During my thesis at the Computational Solid Mechanics Laboratory (LSMS), I developed and used high-performance numerical methods to simulate the propagation of dynamic ruptures within heterogeneous materials. The developed models allowed to challenge the predictions of the dynamic fracture theory in the presence of microscopic heterogeneities. In a second phase, the same framework was applied to study the onset of sliding along frictional interfaces. In the context of friction, the microscopic heterogeneity stems from the sparse contact points existing when two rough surfaces come into contact. The obtained results shed new light on the dynamics of seismic ruptures and the energy budget of earthquakes.

As a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Oslo, I am currently studying how earthquake ruptures interplay with fluid present in the Earth crust, notably in the context of seismicity induced by underground fluid injection.

Dr. Aida Cameselle

Thesis title: Two-dimensional crack growth in FRP structures

Ph.D in Composite Construction Laboratory, CCLAB

Fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite materials are currently being selected for the design of lightweight and efficient structural members in a wide number of engineering applications. The load-bearing capacity of FRP structures can be significantly reduced by delamination and debonding damage which, in actual structural members, may extend all around its perimeter, thus constantly changing the size of the crack front. However, most research efforts concerning the fracture characterization of delamination and debonding damage have focused on one‑dimensional (1D) fracture specimens where cracks propagate longitudinally with an approximately constant crack width, thus resulting in fracture properties that may lead to inaccurate predictions of fracture behavior in real structures. The aim of my thesis was thus to investigate, characterize and quantify, experimentally and numerically, potential 2D effects on the 2D delamination in laminates and 2D debonding in face sheet/core interfaces of sandwich structures that are not captured by 1D fracture mechanics tests. The thesis developed the scientific bases for a better understanding of delamination and debonding in real 2D cases.

Currently I am working as a project engineer for Ingeni SA in Geneva, a cutting-edge structural engineering office with four offices in Switzerland.


Winners of the

“EPFL Outstanding Ph.D Thesis Distinction in Civil and Environmental Engineering”


Dr. Davide Wuthrich

Thesis title: Extreme Hydrodynamic impact onto buildings

Ph.d in the Laboratory of Hydraulic Constructions

Dr. Luca Carraro

Thesis title: Ecohydrological and Metacommunity Studies of Proliferative Kidney Disease Spread in Freshwater Salmonid Fish

Ph.D in the Laboratory of Ecohydrology, ECHO

Mobility Award winners

Ioannis Mirtsopoulos,

As part of the Structural Xploration Lab (SXL), I work at the interface between architecture and structural engineering with the aim of exploring the design space of structurally-aware structures. My research mainly focuses on the development of a novel design computational workflow that generates reticulated structures in static equilibrium at an early design stage, as a result of user defined force-driven rules rather than numerical variables. Its implementation is reflected on a user-controlled, form-finding engine which unveils unprecedent structural typologies through the extensive exploration of the design space. Part of the research objectives is the human-machine collaboration and the exploitation of intelligence and logic sourcing from both sides.

During my academic visit to the “Digital Structures” research lab of Prof. Caitlin Muller, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I aim to integrate artificial intelligence into the developed computational workflow. This approach will upgrade the machine as a collaborative partner during the design process, that contributes with its own intelligence towards the final design. Overall, the guidance and experience gained there will allow me extend my research towards a more intelligent and multidisciplinary approach.

Niloufar Vahedi

In the scope of my PhD research project ‘’Composite sandwich bridge decks on fire’’, I investigate the thermo-mechanical behavior of composite sandwich bridge decks composed of glass fiber-reinforced (GFRP) face sheets and a balsa wood core during a fire. This new type of sandwich bridge decks has to meet the same requirements as traditional decks do. In particular, their behavior during a fire incident has to be known and predictable.

As a main step of my project, numerical thermo-physical and thermo-mechanical sandwich response models are currently developed and will be validated by the fire resistance experiments. The mentioned fire resistance experiments are my mobility project that will be performed on full-scale GFRP-Balsa sandwich panels and require a specific instrumentation. All the equipment’s will be provided by CERIS (Civil Engineering Research and Innovation for Sustainability) of the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), during a totally six months stay at the beginning of next year.

Anna Depetris, SBER

As member of the SBER laboratory at ENAC, I investigate spatial patterns in freshwater benthic biofilm and their interactions with the surrounding hydrodynamics. Stream benthic biofilms are microbial communities that live attached to the stream bed and exposed to the water flow. They develop remarkable morphological features in response to contrasting flow regimes. Biofilms’ architectural attributes relevantly correlate with spatial inhomogeneities in metabolic rates and biodiversity patterns.

For my Mobility project, I have the honor to take part in the prestigious course in Microbial Diversity held in Woods Hole, MA. During this course I will be trained in state-of-the-art techniques to study microbial biodiversity and to characterize metabolic activity. This will provide essential tools to investigate the ecological processes that underly spatial patterns in stream biofims, ultimately linking important ecosystem processes with stream hydrodynamic regimes.

Aryan Rad Rezaei, IBOIS

I enrolled in the doctoral program of EDCE, EPFL and started my Ph.D at the Laboratory for Timber Constructions (IBOIS) in July 2016. My research is mainly focused on the mechanical characterization and structural optimization of spatial timber-plate structures using wood-wood connections, for which multiple experimental investigations have been already carried out. In parallel, I have recently introduced and developed a new modeling strategy for timber plate structures. The strategy, which is referred to as “macro models”, aims to simulate the global behavior of timber plate structures, reduce the computational expense and improve the efficiency of the design workflow.

An interdisciplinary design framework, where the knowledge of architects, engineers, and computer and robotic scientists is combined, is critical to my doctoral studies. My plan is to develop an automatic algorithm which integrate Computer-aided Design (CAD), the macro models, and open-source computational/structural platforms for Computer-aided Engineering (CAE) analyses and design workflow. The framework aims to develop a dialog between architects and engineers, and links the state of the research to the structural engineering practice. During my academic visit to the research lab of Professor Dr. Henry Burton, my co-supervisor, at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), I aim to finalize my research on developing the interactive tool for performance assessment of spatial timber plate systems at the macro scale.